The college decision is painstaking, especially when there are several colleges on the list, all great and all of them want you! It feels good to be invited to the party, but getting to this point for many is painful.

Families can quake at the college decision and this adds strain to the experience that should be exciting and hopeful. In order to help families process this college decision moment better, I’ve identified five easy steps to consider. These steps will not take you to the perfect college, because regardless of how much work is placed in finding a good-fit, no college is perfect. These steps will, however walk you through a process to better understand the important factors in making the college decision and assist families in identifying practical results.

Assess the Options

Now that the college applications are in, students are anxiously waiting for decisions. Colleges are contacting students by mail, by video, by email and sometimes even in-person to share their decision. These decisions come in a variety of flavors with some having a bit of a sting. Accepted – Deferred – Waitlisted – Denied The degree of rejection grows the further down this scale the decision is made. It is important to know and remember, no college decision determines a student’s worth. The most important thing is to rally and move forward.

At this point, it’s key to focus on your options. What colleges are still in the mix? Clearly, there are those to which the student was accepted. And this is super! But the colleges to which you were deferred or waitlisted should not be tossed aside just yet. Getting deferred means the school’s decision is not a “yes” or a “no” and by placing the student in a “deferred” category offers the school another opportunity to evaluate the student. This is a good time to consider revisiting the school and submitting NEW information on your academic progress and/or achievements. When waitlisted, it’s important to know the school is waiting to see how the class fills before offering a decision on your admittance. A waitlisted decision often comes after May 1 and could intersect with other decisions a family is trying to make.

Evaluate the Schools

There are many scenarios students could potentially experience in the college decision process. When a student is trying to decide between two or more equally competitive colleges, it’s important to step back and take a fresh look at each of the colleges. Dig deeper into what initially attracted you to them in the first place. Why were they a good fit and how does that reason weigh in your decision? Are all the colleges on your decision list selected by you for the same “good-fit” reason? Explore each one and give it a score and see how each one differs from the other.

Compare and Contrast

During the evaluation process, take a moment to compare and contrast what you learn. Strategically zero-in on programs of interest, potential majors, clubs, organizations and other areas of student-life important to you. What about housing options? Career centers? What are the outcomes for the major you’re considering? Do students at one of your colleges have a greater chance of getting hired after graduation than the others?

Calculate the Financial Aid

This step may actually come before all the others depending on your college list. The actual cost of attendance can differ greatly between colleges depending on their location (in-state vs. out-of-state), public vs. private and many other factors. Regardless, it is important to determine the actual cost in attending each institution.

Each of the accepted schools will soon provide a Financial Aid Award Letter to outline the varying amounts of aid available federally and institutionally. Once each of them is in your hands, begin the process of actual cost as one factor of consideration.

Be Rational

Keeping an even keel in the college decision process is critical. Getting emotionally connected without a logical approach can make the decision overly complex. For instance, consider if, at one college, you know friends from high school will be going. But at another college, you are considering there will be no friends from high school. It is always tempting to run toward the direction where we feel most comfortable, but it may not be the best choice. So be rational in your decision, keep a level head and think through your college decision from as many angles as you can. It’s one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make!

We are confident you are going to make a very informed college decision and celebrate with you on this great adventure!

If you would still like some direction, or know someone else in need of consultation, feel free to get in touch!

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